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NHS grad’s story part of new Gold Star Museum exhibit

A new exhibit being unveiled last Friday at the Iowa Gold Star Museum on Camp Dodge in Johnston features the story of a Newton Senior High School graduate.

Ambassador Chuck Larson Jr., who also serves as a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command, will be one of dozens of Iowa veterans featured in the Notable Iowa Veterans exhibit. The project, in its second year, was photographed by Grandview University Professor Emeritus Dr. Bill Schaefer and is meant to honor the significant military and civilian accomplishments of Iowa veterans from across the state.

Larson, a 1986 NHS graduate, was sworn into service in 1987 by his father, Col. Chuck Larson Sr. And began his military career with 1st Battalion, 410th Infantry in Iowa City. He later transferred to the 133rd Infantry based in Dubuque.

He served for a year in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom as Command Judge Advocate for the 372nd Engineer Group and Task Force 185 Aviation. He was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service in combat and the Combat Action Badge.

Following his war experience, he wrote “Heroes Among Us,” which profiles 29 heroes from the War on Terrorism, which was released in 2008.

“Joining the military was the single most important decision of my life,” Larson said. “The values and work ethic the Army teaches a young person are second to none.”

He is currently a partner with the LS2 Group, a bipartisan public relations, public affairs and marketing firm in Des Moines. He also is a partner with the Charles Larson Law Firm in Des Moines.

Larson was appointed as Ambassador to the Republic of Latvia by President George W. Bush in 2007 and held that position from his confirmation by the U.S. Senate in 2008 until he was replaced by President Barack Obama in 2009. In May 2008, Latvian President Valdis Zatlers awarded Larson the Order of the Three Stars, Latvia’s highest award, for his service to the country.

Following his graduation from NHS, he attended the University of Iowa, receiving a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1992. He graduated with honors as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He received his law degree from the U of I in 1996.

Larson served as an assistant county attorney in Jones County until 1999, and then became general counsel to the ESCO Group in Marion, serving in that capacity until 2006. He then served on the Pearl Mutual Fund board of directors until his appointment as U.S. Ambassador.

He also was a politician, serving in the Iowa House of Representatives from 1993 to 2001. While in the House, he served as chairman of the Economic Development and House Judiciary committees.

Larson was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2002, serving just one term. He also was Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa from 2001 to 2005. He served in an advisory capacity for U.S. Sen. John McCain’s unsuccessful presidential bid in 2008.

He currently resides in West Des Moines with his wife, Jennifer. They have two sons: William and John-Henry.

Larson’s father, Charles Sr., is a also a part of this year’s exhibit. Charles Sr. is a former U.S. Attorney in Cedar Rapids who served as Commissioner of the Iowa Department of Public Safety and on the Iowa Board of Corrections.

The Princeton, Ill., native was appointed by Gov. Branstad last month to fill a vacancy on the Iowa Board of Parole, of which he was once chairman.

Established in 1985, the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum is the only federally-recognized repository for military artifacts in Iowa. Its mission is twofold: to preserve Iowa’s military history and honor the military service of all Iowans.

The museum’s exhibits tell the stories of Iowans who have served in defense of their state and nation, from the early settlement of the state in the 1840s through today’s Global War on Terror. An extensive exhibit honors the 34th Infantry Division -- the famous “Red Bull” Division -- which holds the distinction of serving the most continuous days in combat of any division in the European Theater during World War II.

The museum is located on Camp Dodge, 7105 N.W. 70th Ave. in Johnston. Regular hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each Saturday.

Visitors must use the N.W. 70th Avenue entrance. Photo identification is required for adults to gain admittance to Camp Dodge. A driver’s license is acceptable.

Daily News Editor Bob Eschliman may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 423, or at

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